Resurrected the bullpen…’Rookie’ Kang In-Kwon runs a ‘crappy’ bullpen, challenges ‘Steel Magic’ winning manager
Can a rookie coach write a miracle?
NC coach Kang In-hwa is a fall baseball novice, but his four-game postseason run this year was anything but indecisive. He led his team to a postseason collapse by being selective and focused.스포츠토토
Eric Peddy, a 20-win, 200-strikeout ace, was unavailable for the wild-card game and semifinals. In his final start of the regular season, on the 16th against KIA, he was hit in the forearm by a hard-hit pitch from Jong-wook Ko, causing a bruised and contused right elbow impingement syndrome, a result of accumulated fatigue throughout the season. It wasn’t serious, but he needed to recover, and Pedi remained on the disabled list.
The delay in his return meant NC had to play the postseason with a shaky starting rotation. Initially, he was prepared to start Game 3 of the semifinals, but he was unable to do so due to discomfort again. He even apologized to his semifinal opponent, SSG. Kang said, “I’m sorry for being a liar. I also apologized to the other team (SSG) and sent them a message through their head coach.”
Pedi’s foreign one-two punch partner, Tanner Tully, was also distraught. He was charged with five runs on seven hits (one home run) and three walks in four innings in Game 1 of the wild-card decider against Doosan and five runs on five hits (one home run) and three walks with two strikeouts in two innings in Game 2 of the wild-card against SSG. It highlighted the short-term weaknesses of foreign pitchers with poor command.
The bullpen was inevitably depleted. In all four postseason games, the starting lineup did not last more than six innings, and the bullpen was naturally activated early. In addition, as most of the games were close, long-relief and must-win pitchers were used instead of ambiguous pitchers. Aside from the three starters (Tanner Shin, Min-hyuk Shin, and Myung-ki Song), the bullpen used six pitchers in the four games. Young-gyu Kim, Ryu Jin-wook, and closer Lee Yong-chan appeared in all four games. Lee Jae-hak appeared in three games.
It can be said that it is a ‘wasteful’ baseball where only the best players are used, but in the short season, the team was selective and focused. It paid off and is one of the reasons why NC is currently writing miracles. Young-gyu Kim was a bit shaky in the wild-card deciding game, allowing three hits and no walks in one inning, but in the semifinals, he pitched three games and 3 ⅔ innings with one win, two walks, one hit, and two strikeouts to earn the semifinal series MVP. Ryu Jin-wook was also solid in Game 1 of the wild-card deciding game, allowing one run (unearned) on two hits and one walk in 2 1/3 innings, and in the semifinals, allowing one run on three hits and three walks with one strikeout in three games. The two relievers came in as early as the fifth inning to settle the game down in the middle and late innings.
Closer Lee Yong-chan also had a rough start to the wild-card decider, but has since stabilized. In Game 3 of the semifinals, which clinched the series, he pitched a one-hit, two-strikeout shutout for his first perfect inning in fall baseball this year. After a one-hit, one-strikeout shutout in Game 2 of the semifinals, he has now pitched two consecutive scoreless games. The last bastion has been shaky and has been a source of fall baseball anxiety in NC, but it’s starting to settle down.
The most worrisome aspect of ‘wasted’ baseball is the health of the pitchers. In the short season, they have to concentrate more and exert themselves more, so the intensity of physical exertion is more than double that of the regular season. Ryu Jin-wook once said, “My velocity seems to drop by 1 to 2 kilometers” after repeated appearances. Even with the same fastball, the power of the ball can decrease with repeated appearances.
However, NC ended the semifinals in three games, giving them a four-day break before the playoffs. After the semifinals end on the 25th, NC will have a day off on the 26th, followed by a short training session on the 27th and 28th, before traveling to Suwon on the 29th for the playoff finale.
Four days of rest for Pil-Seung-jo, who will continue to pitch with the returning closer Lee Yong-chan. The team is clearly outnumbered by KT, who have a solid starting lineup, but the conditions are in place for them to recharge and fight back. With a determination uncharacteristic of a ‘rookie’ manager, Kang Myung-hwa is ready to threaten the ‘winning manager’ Lee Kang-chul.